Sannakji is live baby octopus, called "nakji" in Korean, that is cut into small pieces and served with sesame oil. Sannakji is a popular offering of the food carts on the streets of South Korea. Sannakji is considered a "hoe," or raw dish.


Other names: Sannakji Hoe

Physical Description

Sannakji is served on a plate with sesame oil and sometimes with a sesame seed garnish. The pieces of sannakji are still moving on the plate when served, and since the suction cups are still active, care must be taken when swallowing or else the pieces can get stuck in the mouth or esophogus. The pieces must be chewed thoroughly before swallowing to prevent choking.

Colors: Light to dark brownish-gray.

Tasting Notes

Flavors: Slightly salty taste
Mouthfeel: Chewy and sticky; pieces wiggle inside the mouth while eaten
Food complements: Samjang (a spicy pepper and bean paste)
Wine complements: Soju (korean rice wine)
Beverage complements: Green tea or boricha (barley tea)
Substitutes: Octopus, Jellyfish

Selecting and Buying

Seasonality: january, february, march, april, may, june, july, august, september, opctober, november, december
Choosing: The baby octopus, or "nakji," should be alive and active.
Buying: Best purchased from a seafood vendor that sells octopus fresh from a tank.
Procuring: Octopus can be found in most warm-water oceans, but are abundant in the Pacific ocean in places like Korea, Japan and Hawaii. Octopus hunt their prey (crabs and crayfish) at night, so it is best to begin hunting them just before sundown, when they are still hiding among rocks close to shore. They can be captured with a pole equipped with a grabber on one end. In many U.S. states, fishing rules state that octopus cannot be caught with any instrument that penetrates the animal.

Preparation and Use

Sannakji is served directly from the tank, cut into small pieces and served on a plate with sesame oil and/or sesame seeds while still wiggling.

Cleaning: No cleaning is necessary since the pieces are served raw.

Conserving and Storing

Live octopus must be stored in a salt-water tank until ready to be eaten.


In Korea and other parts of Asia, sannakji is considered a delicacy and is eaten by most of the population. It is also eaten in parts of the United States, particularly Hawaii, Washington and Oregon. However, there is some controversy regarding the eating of octopus, since octopus is considered to be one of the most intelligent invertebrates, with IQs estimated to equal that of a common house cat.

History: Octopus has been eaten in most Asian countries for centuries and is only now becoming popular in many European countries due to the increased availability of imports from the Pacific and Morocco. It is not as common a dish in the United States with the exception of Hawaii and the states that border the Pacific ocean.

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